Why was this so? I've endeavored to find the answer for you on Our Friend Internet today, with little success. Was it that food really looked worse back then? Not mostly, no. Was it the cameras and/or film used then, the lighting maybe? Only a tiny bit of the answer. I am thinking it was the particular print process of the time, which did not offer a full range of colors. It often made some colors lurid and over-saturated while desaturating and muting others until they were all some tone of puce. You don't realize the allure of color in making food appetizing until you see things that look so vile you'd turn them down on your hungriest day.
Because I am your best friend, I'm going to share with you fifteen horrid food photo examples from some '50s-era Family Circle and Good Housekeeping magazines I recently scooped up while thrifting in Wisconsin. Disclaimer: I'm going to be pretty blunt in my descriptions, so if you have a sensitive stomach or sensibility, you should probably just stop reading here and go stare at a wall or something.